Click on thumbnail for larger image.

Women in the Navy: WRNS and WAVES

Catalogue number 125041

Leaving for Alexandria, 1940

Here are a group of W.R.N.S. before their posting to Alexandria in 1940. Note both guilt and plastic buttons on the jackets.

Recto: “Farewell tea of Lane W.R.N.S. Canteen August 1940. “Ganges” - Shipped to Alexandria.”

8cm x 5.5cm Gelatin silver print


Catalogue number 125050

Evacuation of W.R.N.S. from Alexandrai 1942

Evacuation of W.R.N.S. from Alexandria in the summer of 1942 when the German advance threatened Egypt. Note the suitcases in the ship’s boat.

Verso: “WRNS evacuation from Alexandria to Port Said, June 42” in black ink

5.3cm x 7.9cm Gelatin silver print


Catalogue number 125051

W.R.N.S. coming aboard

Here’s another boat load of W.R.N.S. just coming alongside a ship. Note the floating jetty carrying oil pipes to refuel the ship.

Verso: “WRNS - evacuation from Alexandria to Port Said, June 42” in black ink

8.4cm x 6cm Gelatin silver print


Catalogue number 125052

Ready to leave Alexandria

On board ship and ready to get underway, these W.R.N.S. rest in the shade of depth charge throwers.

8.4cm x 6cm Gelatin silver print


Catalogue number 125053

W.R.N.S. under canvas, Suez, 1943

On arrival from Alexandria, the W.R.N.S. were allotted tents.

Recto: “Stakes” or “Stapes” and “Camp at Suez 1943” in black ink

7.8cm x 5.4cm Gelatin silver print


Catalogue number 126015

Morning prayers, Suez, 1943

Quite a large company of W.R.N.S. here in Suez, note tents and huts for accommodation and offices.

Recto: “Divisions - Suez” in black ink and handwriting as for above

11.5cm x 7.7cm Gelatin silver print


Catalogue number 126068

W.R.N.S. at H.M.S. Jackdaw, 1942

H.M.S. Jackdaw was a Fleet Air Arm shore station near Crail, Fife in Scotland. Fairey Albacores were present at H.M.S. Jackdaw from 1941 as part of the torpedo bomber training squadron. One source gives the following figures for the complement of H.M.S. Jackdaw - Royal Navy 361 officers and 1,924 ratings with W.R.N.S. 18 officers and 619 ratings

Verso: “WRENS now help to maintain aircraft 15.7.42. The latest work in which it is proposed that Wrens shall replace naval ratings is the maintenance of ships and aircraft, and these pictures taken at a Fleet Air Arm shore station show some of the girls busy at their new jobs in which they are giving most valuable help. A crew of Wrens learning to handle the “tin fish”.

Credit: Competitive Central Press

13.8cm x 9cm Gelatin silver print


Catalogue number 126069

Women working a Fairey Albacore

This photograph gives a good view not only of the W.R.N.S. working on maintaining this Albacore but also shows the details of the aircraft - under the lower starboard wing are bomb clasps and under the fuselage are the torpedo clasps. Forward of the cockpit is what I think is the torpedo sight. The markers were used to estimate the offset so that the launched torpedo and target coincide. The W.R.N.S. rating on the lower port wing is cleaning what seems to be an upward-lifting hatch.

Credit: Central Press

22.8cm x 17.8cm Gelatin silver print


Catalogue number 98057

Women working for the French Navy, WW1

Although not navy, this is another example of what women could do to release men for the Services. These women of the Women’s Auxiliary Air Force (W.A.A.F.) were part of the Royal Air Force maintenance unit at R.A.F. Aston Downs during the Second World War. The women did a remarkable job keeping the aircraft in good working order and are shown here in front of a Hawker Typhoon. At one time there were 410 W.A.A.F. personnel on the site

Verso: “Aston Downs Gloucester, 1945 1.C.W. Johnson F.M. A souvenir, in memory of all our pleasant evenings together. Frances.” in black ink

11.5cm x 8.7cm Gelatin silver print


Catalogue number 122039

Women working for the French Navy, WW1

These French women, some of whom are wearing smocks, have arm bands with crossed anchors which suggests that they may be workers at a French naval base.

13.8cm x 9cm Gelatin silver print


Catalogue number 122038

W.R.N.S. Marjorie Wethered and friends, 1

The following five photographs are from an album owned by Marjorie Wethered. She is shown (front row, second from the left) with other W.R.N.S. officers and Royal Navy officers. Note the Royal Navy officer wearing a borrowed W.R.N.S.'s tricorn hat. The period is post-1939, the tricorn hat has a white covering.

8.2cm x 7.9cm Gelatin silver print


Catalogue number 121120

W.R.N.S. Marjorie Wethered and friends, 2

Marjorie Wethered is far right and the W.R.N.S. officer far left appears in several photographs.

9.7cm x 7.7cm Gelatin silver print


Catalogue number 122036

W.R.N.S. Marjorie Wethered and friends, 3

Although the war was still on, these people fortunately found time to laugh. Note they are outside a pub ! Romsey was just a short drive North West from the Royal Navy port of Devonport.

10.3cm x 7.8cm Gelatin silver print


Catalogue number 122037

Miss Wethered's friend

Here again is Miss Wethered's friend.

3.8cm x 6cm Gelatin silver print


Catalogue number 121054

Afternoon tea

Charis Fry was a W.R.N.S. Chief Officer in 1942, note the cuff lace, she also has two interesting badges on her dress at shoulder height. Marion McDonald is in civil dress, she was with the C.N.A.A. Plymouth, the Canadian W.R.N.S. in the U.K. Bessie Davidson is shown here as a Second Officer.

Recto: “Afternoon tea Miss Fry: Miss Marion MacDonald: Miss Bessie Davidson:”

Verso: “Bessie D Taylor. 2 Warrender Park Cresc. Miss Fry; Miss Macdonald & Miss Davidson”

10.4cm x 6.3cm Gelatin silver print


Catalogue number 124122

The Duchess of Kent, Commandant

In March 1940, the Duchess of Kent became the Commandant of the Women’s Royal Naval Service. She was very active in support of the W.R.N.S. and held the post until her death in 1968. This photograph shows the Duchess at her first appearance as Commandant of the W.R.N.S. and wearing non-reglementary white gloves instead of leather ones.

6.2cm x 8.5cm Negative


Catalogue number 123089

A smart First/Second Officer

This W.R.N.S. officer is holding her reglementary leather gloves in her left hand but the white handkerchief in the left breast pocket is not so reglementary ! Note the merchant aircraft carrier in the background.

Verso : "Official photograph, not to be communicated to the Press." typed in black ink

7.5cm x 12.5cm Gelatin silver print


Catalogue number 123061

Duchess of Kent Barracks, 1951

Here is a smart group of post-war officers with a Deputy Assistant Director in the front row center. Several of them are wearing medal ribbons. Note the woman front row, far right, wearing a different hat and hat badge as well as a jacket with no left breast pocket.

Verso : "Duchess of Kent Barracks, Portsmouth - 1951" in pencil and "3/0 Pridham” in black ink

Credit: Russell

20.5cm x 14.4cm Gelatin silver print


Catalogue number 121086

W.R.N.S. abroad

From January 1941, W.R.N.S. were drafted overseas and this group of officers and ratings are wearing the tropical kit. Note the Royal Navy Commander in the center of the photograph and numerous civilians and some Royal Navy officers in the background. Note four-button shirts and no white stockings, flesh-coloured stockings came in from 1945 and there is a mixture of gilt and post-1942 plastic buttons. There are two First Officers, 2nd and 6th right of the R.N. Commander.

Verso : « Posted in Margriet No.5-1952” and “Marva” in black ink

Credit: Marvo Copyright

23.8cm x 11cm Gelatin silver print


Catalogue number 123094

W.R.N.S. in Colombo

W.R.N.S abroad continued to play an important role in the winding down of operations at the end of the war. Here, a group of W.R.N.S. are shown in their lodgings in Colombo, 1946. Living conditions were rough to begin with but here the W.R.N.S. have moved into more airy, if somewhat spartan, bamboo-roofed brick buildings.

Verso : « Taken in the banda. Colombo January 1946” in blue ink

6cm x 10.2cm Gelatin silver print


Catalogue number 121110

American women working for the U.S. Navy

Although not exactly women in the Navy, these girls are working in an American factory building flying boat wings.

3.6cm x 2.4cm Positive colour negative


Catalogue number 122052

A group of U.S. Navy WAVES

This group of WAVES (United States Naval Reserve (Women's Reserve)) is with two officers, Ensign E. Konvalinka (1921 - 2009) and Ensign R. Yantz. The names and home town of all the WAVES are given on the verso of the photograph.

Verso: The names and home towns of the 42 women in black ink

23.5cm x 19cm Gelatin silver print


Catalogue number 122001

Red Cross with the Navy

These women are from the American Red Cross Military Welfare at the Puget Sound U.S. Naval Shipyard and are accompanied by two Captains, U.S. Navy. Above the cuff lace is what looks like an oak leaf.

Credit: F. Jacobs

24cm x 19cm Gelatin silver print


Catalogue number 88 F2

WAVES graduating, 1943

Here are about 200 WAVES of the 2nd graduating class of the U.S. Naval Training School at Boston, 1943, the WAVES had been created the year before. The sailors have Yeomen shoulder badges and these men would do administrative duties. Note the Captain with his bulldog, this may be Captain Herbert Underwood, commanding officer of the WAVE training school. On the second row there are two women Ensigns with large white caps, double breasted jackets and different lapel badges, are these from the U.S. Marine Corps Women’s Reserve?

74.6cm x 18.5cm Gelatin silver print


Catalogue number 122053

WAVES parading, 1

This and the following photograph show a large parade of WAVES in their summer uniform maybe taking place at the U.S. Naval Training Center, Women’s Reserve, the Bronx, New York (Hunter College). Note the Colour Guard in the middle left and women spectators saluting the flag.

22.6cm x 18cm Gelatin silver print


Catalogue number 122054

WAVES parading, 2

As the WAVES parade, a U.S. Navy band (far left of center) plays music.

22.8cm x 18cm Gelatin silver print


Catalogue number 119109

WAVES review, 1944

The officers and ratings in this WAVES review of 1944 seem lost in this immense hall. In the foreground is a WAVES band with the band master in front ready to march away.

Recto: "Review - Sat. 27 May '44"

22.7cm x 17.8cm Gelatin silver print


Catalogue number 119108

MARVA, the Dutch WRNS, in Great Britain

The Marine Vrouwen Afdeling (MARVA) was founded in London in October 1944 along the lines of the British Women’s Royal Naval Service. The Netherlands was still occupied by the German Army so the MARVA was created by the Netherlands government in exile and recruited Dutch women in Great Britain who had fled the Netherlands. These MARVO women are probably parading somewhere in Great Britain during the Second World War. The woman just right of center is a Petty Officer. The women in the background are from the First Aid Nursing Yeomanry.

Verso: "Departement van Marine MARVO " and " Archief Marvo " rubber stamped and " Marva Archief" in blue ink

24.7cm x 17.1cm Gelatin silver print


Catalogue number 119109

MARVA, 1952

This photograph was published in Margriet, a Dutch weekly magazine for women founded in 1938 and said to be characterized in part by a “sense of duty”. Women in the Navy would be a good example.

Verso : « Posted in Margriet No.5-1952” and “Marva” in black ink

Credit: Marvo Copyright

22.6cm x 16.7cm Gelatin silver print


Catalogue number 119107

MARVA in Indonesia, 1946

This detachment of the MARVA are parading in Batavia (the then capital of Indonesia, now Jakarta) on the birthday of Queen Wilhelmina in 1946.

Verso: “Marva” in blue ink and a Dutch text in pencil referring to Indonesia, Marva and the city of Batavia.

16.3cm x 11.6cm Gelatin silver print


Catalogue number 112025

W.R.N.S. dancing with the Duke of Edinburg, 1949

P.O. Kelly was in the visual signals branch of the W.R.N.S.

Verso: "During a dance given on board the destroyer CHEQUERS where the Duke of Edinburg is First Lieutenant in Malta, he danced with WREN P.O. Patricia Kelly of Hartwell (Northhands sic). Princess Elizabeth was also present at the dance. 28 November 1949." In French

Credit: Robert Cohen

13.1cm x 17.9cm Gelatin silver print


Catalogue number 119100

Young W.R.N.S.

This photograph was probably taken in 1956 and shows the tallest sailor, Ordinary Seaman GeoffreyNewson with the shortest WRNS, Audrey Green.

Verso: “….W.R.N. (sic) Audrey Green, aged 18, a Navy writer, of Ballycastle, Ireland, is the Navy’s shortest woman. She is 4-feet 9-inches tall. She also had to have special kit made for her. ….Victoria Barracks, Portsmouth….”

15.2cm x 20.5cm Gelatin silver print


Catalogue number 118002

W.R.N.S. Liberty boat

This ship has a small group of W.R.N.S. and their officers on board, well wrapped up in their greatcoats. Most of the WRNS are sat around the engine room roof whilst several officers are to port forward. The causeway in the background should give some indication as to where the photograph was taken.

13.1cm x 8.1cm Gelatin silver print


Catalogue number 119047

Women in the U.S. Navy, WAVES

Several women in overalls can be seen in this picture, notably to the right. This Naval training center operated from 1942 and the first contingent of WAVES (Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service, otherwise United States Naval Reserve (Women’s Reserve)) arrived in January 1943.

Recto: “Aviation machinist mate school” and “Naval Air Technical Training Center – Norman, Oklahoma”

13.2cm x 8cm Printed image


Catalogue number 112021

W.R.N.S. on radio workshop

To the right of the group is a W.R.N.S. second class Petty Officer in trousers and to the left is a W.R.N.S. with the Telegraphist/Radio Operator/Radar badge. They are wearing dark coloured shirts instead of the reglementary white “shirt blouse” - for dirty work, the white shirt was replaced by a dark blue one. The group appears to be in a radio repair shop.

13.4cm x 8.3cm Gelatin silver print


Catalogue number 90 F8

W.R.N.V.R. arriving at H.M.S. Caroline, Belfast

H.M.S. Caroline is a light cruiser commissioned in 1914 and has served as the headquarters ship of the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve, Ulster Division in Belfast harbour since 1924. This photograph shows a second class Petty Officer Writer and ratings from the Women’s Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve created in 1952. We can see visual signalling and writer badges with W.R.N.V.R. on the left cuff. This may be a photograph of the first group recruited into the W.R.N.V.R. - note the new-looking uniforms, smart shoulder bags and holdalls in front of the group. When first formed, the officers and senior ratings were ex-W.R.N.S. - note the medal ribbons worn by the P.O. The W.R.N.V.R. became the Women’s Royal Naval Reserve in 1958.

22.7cm x 17.5cm Gelatin silver print

Catalogue number 112068

Women's Section of the Navy League, circa 1915

Miss Elizabeth Poe was the commandant of the Preparedness Camp of the Navy League, a civilian volunteer organization providing training to women for the defence of the country should the U.S.A. get drawn into the Great war. The Women’s Section of the Navy League (W.S.N.L.) was formed in 1915. Mrs Mildred Dewey was associated with the W.S.N.L. Comforts Committee when discussing the distribution of hand-knitted hoods, scarves and wristlets to American warships in the European war zone.

Recto: “+ Mrs Dewey I Miss Poe Commandant of camp” in pencil

13.7cm x 8.7cm Gelatin silver print


Catalogue number 112002

Women's Royal Australian Naval Service, 1952

The Women’s Royal Australian Naval Service (W.R.A.N.S.) was formed in 1942 in response to the need for manpower in the Pacific war. It was disbanded in 1947 only to be re-established in 1951 because of the need for men on sea-service due to the Cold war. This group of ratings undergoing officer training (white cover on the cap) are accompanied by three W.R.A.N.S. Third officers and three Royal Australian Navy (R.A.N.) officers including Engineer Captain Kenneth Urquhart (second from the right of the photo). Captain Urquhart was the General Manager of Williamstown Naval Dockyard at the time.

Verso: “Royal Australian Navy official photograph. Date taken 13 Mar 1952” as blue ink stamp

24.4cm x 19.1cm Gelatin silver print


Catalogue number 112004

Women's Royal Australian Naval Service, 1952

Captain Urquhart is watching the W.R.A.N.S. board the Dockyard Police motor launch to go out to H.M.A.S. Cerberus, 1952. The W.R.A.N.S. had just been reformed to counter the need for men at sea. Members of the R.A.N. Dockyard police are looking on.

Verso: “Royal Australian Navy official photograph. Date taken 13 Mar 1952” as blue ink stamp

24.4cm x 19.1cm Gelatin silver print


Catalogue number 112005

Women's Royal Australian Naval Service, 1952

H.M.A.S. Cerberus is a R.A.N. training establishment near Melbourne and the Williamstown Naval Dockyard. It was opened to W.R.A.N.S. in 1942 and this group are part of the new intake for officer training after a pause during the war.

Verso: “Royal Australian Navy official photograph. Date taken 13 Mar 1952” as blue ink stamp

24.4cm x 19.1cm Gelatin silver print


Catalogue number 112057

Superintendent Isherwood, W.R.N.S. Malta, 1946

In 1942, Dorothy Isherwood had been one of three W.R.N.S. officers sent to Ottawa to start the W.R.C.N.S. and became its Director in 1943 before returning to England in September. She retired in 1946 after serving as Superintendent to Commander in the Mediterranean.

Verso: “Wrens Malta 1946”

Credit: Rex Photo Studio, 42 St. Vincent Str. Sliema.

5.5cm x 8.5cm Gelatin silver print


Catalogue number 112056

Superintendent and staff, W.R.N.S. Malta, 1946

Superintendent Isherwood joined the W.R.N.S. in 1939 and is shown here with her staff, including a 1st officer (sitting on wall, right) and a Petty officer (standing left) in Malta. From 1943 to 1946 she was Superintendent in the Middle East and was based in Malta.

Verso: “Wrens Malta 1946”

Credit: Rex Photo Studio, 42 St. Vincent Str. Sliema.

14cm x 8.9cm Printed image


Catalogue number 112055

W.R.N.S. Malta, 1946

A group of W.R.N.S. in Malta 1946, several of them have medal ribbons and we can see the star badge – probably for office staff – on the right arm of two W.R.N.S.

Verso: “Wrens Malta 1946”

Credit: Rex Photo Studio, 42 St. Vincent Str. Sliema.

13cm x 7.8cm Gelatin silver print


Catalogue number 111072

Woman Petty Officer in the French Aéronavale, 1975

Although this is a heavily posed photograph of a woman air traffic controler- the radar screen is not functioning, there are no "departures" nor "arrivals" slips posted on the clipboard left of the screen and all switches seem to be in the up "off" position - it illustrates the ever increasing role of women in the French Navy.

Recto: "Female staff of the Navy. Operator at an aircraft approach radar console."

Credit: E.C.P.A.

23.7cm x 15.3cm Gelatin silver print


Catalogue number 11071

Women Petty Officers in the control tower, B.A.N. Landivisiau 1975

Two women of the French Navy at work in the control tower of the Aéronavale base at Landivisiau. They appear to be very young.

Recto: "Female staff of the Navy. Women Petty Officers in the control tower at the naval air station of Landivisiau"

Credit: E.C.P.A.

23.8cm x 15.2cm Gelatin silver print


Catalogue number 110039

Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service, U.S. Navy WAVES

In 1942, the U.S. Navy established a corps for women under the acronym of WAVES. They performed a wide variety of tasks previously occupied by men. Here a group of WAVES officers are enjoying a break whilst travelling on the Union Pacific railway.

14cm x 8.9cm Printed image


Catalogue number 110018

Petty Officer, Cook, W.R.N.S., 1939-45

This photograph was released to encourage women to join the W.R.N.S. and free men to crew ships. It presents an encouraging vision of promotion within the W.R.N.S. By the end of the war, many ex-W.R.N.S. women had acquired skills and trades that enabled them to obtain jobs.

Verso: "British Official Photograph: Crown Copyright Reserved. Distributed by the Ministry of Information. Women's Royal Naval Service. With the Fleet Air Arm. "I like making pastry". Here is P.O. Drummond, Petty Officer Cook on an air station. Before the war she was a cook. The Day after war was declared P.O. Drummond joined the W.R.N.S. as a wardroom galley cook. She served for a year, working under a naval chef and picked up hints on quantity cooking. She is now in charge of a W.R.N.S. galley and is cooking for 300 Wrens - and likes it." and "Women in the Marine. She says she likes cooking" in Croate

15.2cm x 20.3cm Gelatin silver print


Catalogue number 111073

Lossiemouth Unit 1953 with Dame Mary Lloyd

A fine group of WRNS at the Royal Navy Air Station (RNAS) Lossiemouth or HMS Fulmar with in the front row center, Dame Mary Lloyd, Director. There was a Miss Margaret Stallard who was promoted acting Third Officer W.R.N.S. from 9th May 1943 (cf The London Gazette 22nf June 1943).

Verso: "Lossie Unit with **** **** - Dame Mary Lloyd October 1953" in blue ink and "C/w Stallard" in pencil

28.3cm x 13.5cm Gelatin silver print


Catalogue number 108003

WRNS N°9 HQ, Devonport 1917

This splendid photograph shows a group of the newly formed WRNS and their officer in 1917. Non-substantive badges abound and show the range of jobs that the WRNS took on. In the center with her tricorn hat is a Deputy Director and to her right, with a crossed anchors and crown badge on her left arm is a Section Leader. On the front row sitting, we have, apart from the cat, a storekeeper/porter/messanger (crossed keys on right arm) and to her left, a clerical rating (crossed quills). Second and third from the right are two household workers (scallop shell on right arm). A new role for women at the time was the job of motor driver/motorcyclist, there is a motorcyclist on the back row, second from the right (note the close-fitting cap, heavy overcoat and the gauntlet gloves) and to her left is a motor driver. Most of the ratings appear to be very young.

Verso: "WRNS Mt Wise Devonport N°9 HQ 1917"

11.8cm x 7cm Photograph


Catalogue number 105070

Women's Royal Canadian Naval Service, WRCNS

The Women's Royal Canadian Naval Service was created along the lines of the British WRNS in July 1942. WRNS from Britain went over to help set-up the Canadian service which at its peak had 5,893 officers and ratings. This appears to be an accounts department, the Leading seaman to the left of center is studying a huge ledger. The WRCNS to the extreme left has a non-reglementary WRNS tie-pin.

Source: Royal Canadian Navy

18.8cm x 14cm Gelatin silver print


Catalogue number 105069

Party time with WRCNS and HMCS officers and men

This joyful gathering of Royal Canadian Navy men and women includes a variety of WRCNS and RCN officers and ratings, including a woman from the Royal Canadian Air Force Women's Division (second row from the back, seventh from the left, a man has his hands on her shoulders). The star badge with the letter "W" (for "Write") in the center designated a whole host of jobs concerned with bookkeeping and maintaining records (See two WRCNS rating sitting second and third from the left). There is a Regulating Chief WRNS just behind these two (laurel leaves and crown lapel badges). There are also several Leading WRCNS - extreme left and far right - (single anchor badge) and other RCN ranks too - a Lieutenant RCNVR (second row from the back, far right with his arms around two women) and a Sub-Lieutenant RCNVR (front row sitting third from the right).

24.5cm x 14cm Gelatin silver print


Catalogue number 105073

US Marine Corps Women's Reserve

Hesitation and disbelief that a woman could do a Marine's job first met the formation of the Women's Reserve in 1943 but the officers and women quickly showed what they could do at shore stations so as to free men for combat. A similar Women's Reserve already existed for the US Navy since 1942 and the two Reserves worked in close collaboration for recruitment. Here we see three women, in the summer dress uniform of white twill with the Marine Corps emblem on the jacket lapels, working in the uniform shop.

9.2cm x 10.8cm Gelatin silver print


Catalogue number 105068

Women's Reserve Officer

This Women's Reserve officer is working with a member of the US nursing service at a blood bank. She is wearing the forest green serge jacket of the Winter service uniform.

8.9cm x 10.9cm Gelatin silver print


Catalogue number 105072

Repair and maintenance of gyroscopes

A measure of the meticulous work that the Women's Reserve took on is the repair and maintenance of such precision instruments as the gyroscopes so vital for navigation. The women are wearing dungarees with the US Marine Corps badge on the left breast-pocket.

11.4cm x 7.4cm Gelatin silver print


Catalogue number 105071

Women Marines go to Hawaii, 1945

After a strict selection procedure, the first contingent of Women's Reserve to go abroad boarded the SS Matsonia on 25th January 1945 at San Franciso bound for Hawaii. There were five officers and 160 enlisted women and we can see them here with their backpack and blanket roll going up the gangplank. Looking on is a US Navy Women's Reserve rating and an officer (left foreground, black and white hats, respectively). The armband "NTS" on the officer's left arm stand for Naval Training Station.

8.9cm x 10.5cm Gelatin silver print


Catalogue number 105071

Women drivers

One of the previously male domains was driving heavy vehicles but, as shown here, women of the Marine Corps Women's Reserve were fully capable of taking over the job even if gearboxes were not synchronised and there was no power steering.

8.9cm x 10.5cm Gelatin silver print


Catalogue number 106016

WRNS Stewards, 1939 - 1945

Women of the WRNS took over many jobs previously done by men within the Royal Navy, all of which contributed to free the men to go to war. Here are three stewards from the Officer's Mess.

Verso: "In the WRENS (sic). Evelyn Rumford, formerly a waitress, starts her work in the services as an officers steward. Here she is making the acquaintance of the other stewards."

19.6cm x 14.7cm Gelatin silver print


Catalogue number 45143

WRNS Commodore 1946

Last year was the 100th anniversary of the creation of the Women's Royal Naval Service (WRNS). The aim in 1917 was to substitute women for men on certain shore work within the Royal Navy and so freeing men to go to sea. A similar service already existed, the Women's Auxiliary Army Corps, doing, for example, secretarial work and driving, so releasing men for duty in the Army. The scope of work was initially clerical and domestic duties but as the service developed, WRNS were employed in servicing anti-submarine equipment, coding, aircraft maintenance and signals. With the end of the war, the service was disbanded in 1919. The service was reformed in 1938 with Mrs Vera Laughton Mathews as Director/Commodore and WRNS increased the scope of their technical skills in parallel with the technological advances of the time. In this photograph taken in 1946, the Director (second from the right) is accompanied by a Deputy Director and possibly two Deputy Assistant Directors, WRNS.

Verso: Gwyneth Lilecaine (sic) Summer 1946 Commodore Dame Laughton Mathews etc

12.6cm x 7.8cm Gelatin silver print


Catalogue number 35248

A group of WRNS officers

This photograph shows a very smart group of WRNS officers accompanied by two wire-haired terriers. The officer's uniform first appeared in 1939 and consisted of a double-breasted jacket, a white blouse and black tie, a blue skirt, black stockings and laced shoes. The hat was a blue tricorn with a black band and the badge was a crowned silver foul anchor within a light blue laurel wreath. Ranks were indicated by light blue distinction lace with a diamond in place of the usual curl. Soft leather gloves completed the outfit.

13.3cm x 8.2cm Gelatin silver print


Catalogue number 105024

WRNS ratings

Eight WRNS ratings sometime after 1942 when the much-detested soft brimmed hat had been replaced by the sailor's cap. The cap was worn cocked to the right when on parade and "at an angle not more than 18 degrees"! The WRNS bottom row, extreme right has a six star-shaped non-substantive badge on her right arm indicating that she is specialized to work in a particular department.

13.2cm x 8.4cm Gelatin silver print


Catalogue number 65012

WRNS load a torpedo

A group of WRNS air mechanics in 1945 run a torpedo out of a hanger whilst a Petty Officer keeps a close eye on the operation. In the upper foreground are the clasps of a Fairey Barracuda to which the torpedo will be attached. Standard uniform was not adapted to this kind of work and the WRNS are wearing one-piece blue overalls. Their hair is held up in a headscarf and the blue edging of the square neck shirt can just be seen. Some of the WRNS look very young.

Verso: Text describing the role of WRNS air mechanics and stating that they service and overhaul practically all the aircraft in the Fleet Air Arm.

14cm x 19.6cm Gelatin silver print


Catalogue number 31020

WRNS air mechanics, 1945

WRNS air mechanics are training to repair what appears to be a worn-out Fairey Barracuda. They are wearing overalls - quite a revolution for the time - with headscarves and white shoes!

Verso: A text describing how this work by the WRNS helped to establish Allied air superiority - the photograph is from 1945 - and that many of the women entered the service directly from school.

19.8cm x 14.2cm Gelatin silver print


Catalogue number 65011

Armouring a Fairey Barracuda

Nothing seems to frighten these trainee WRNS as they winch 250lbs bombs up to the wing of a Fairey Barracuda. A Petty Officer - the same as in the torpedo photograph above? - supervises the winching operation from on top of the wing. The WRNS in the middle of the group has what looks like a specialist badge on the belt of her overalls.

Verso: A text underlines the important role of the WRNS in the Fleet Air Arm along with a description of the winching operation.

14.2cm x 19.8cm Gelatin silver print


Catalogue number 101198

Maintaining navigation charts up to date

The title of this photograph from 1942 is "W.R.N.S. at work correcting charts, on board a submarine depot ship". Both WRNS have their specialist badge on the right sleeve. The thick black stockings help to keep warm whilst working although there is a small electric heater, bottom left. Behind the WRNS in the background we can see a gas mask bag but judging by its bulging size, it has more than just a gas mask inside!

Verso: "Picture issued March 1942" followed by a text about the role of a submarine depot ship.

19.4cm x 14.6cm Gelatin silver print


Catalogue number 102014

Specialist radio mechanics

Specialist WRNS radio mechanics first appeared in 1941 and their duties were to maintain and repair radio sets for ships but the majority of women were with the Fleet Air Arm servicing wireless and radar sets. The text of this photograph states "In some cases the girls go up in the machines to give the radio sets a thorough testing.". It must have been quite an experience for these young women.

Verso: "W.R.N.S. Radio mechanics" followed by a text about the radio branch of the WRNS.

14,2cm x 19cm Gelatin silver print

Catalogue number 105039

The Girls in Blue !

This newspaper article of 11th July 1941, describes the merits of the WRNS, the "Girls in Blue!". The peacetime careers of some WRNS are given - author, concert singer, artist, teacher and librarian. Many WRNS ratings came from the homes of sailors and fishermen. Bottom right is a WRNS wearing the hated "pudding basin" style hat. Bottom left shows a group of WRNS selected for service abroad. They are dressed in tropical uniform and this group was drafted overseas to Singapore as specialist wireless telegraphy operators. They were rapidly evacuated to Ceylon just before the Japanese invaded Singapore. By the end of the war, WRNS were present in most Naval stations abroad.

18.1cm x 26cm Printed newspaper article